Thursday, January 04, 2018

Flyers Stranded at Mumbai Airport as Caste Unrest Disrupts City

Passengers at Mumbai airport were stranded for hours on Wednesday after street protests over the treatment of people in lower castes restricted highway access to the facility and disrupted public transportation across India’s financial hub.

Thirty-two flights to and from Mumbai were canceled on Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for the airport, which is run by a consortium led by GVK Power & Infrastructure Ltd. Aircraft tracking website counted at least 366 delays of 15 minutes or more.

The demonstrations died down in the afternoon, according to local reports. During the disruption, travelers landing at the airport opted to stay inside the terminal rather than venture out, and flight crews were reaching the airport late, said the spokesperson. Passengers with a connecting flight were being transferred through the air-side instead of a regular transfer via terminals, the spokesperson said, asking not to be named citing company rules.

The protests began after a man was killed in the neighboring city of Pune on Monday, in a violent clash between members of the Dalit community, the lowest in India’s rigid caste hierarchy, and so-called upper-caste groups. Dalit groups have since organized street protests in various cities across the state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital.
IndiGo, India’s biggest airline, and Vistara, the local partner of Singapore Airlines Ltd., advised passengers to plan travel in advance, citing heavy traffic en route to the airport, while waiving modification and cancellation fees. Jet Airways India Ltd., the biggest full-service airline, also waived trip-modification and no-show penalties at Mumbai, Aurangabad and Pune airports, citing the unrest.
03/01/18 Anurag Kotoky/Bloomberg